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Concrete canoe team seeks to defend regional crown on home turf

Friday, April 24, 2015

LAWRENCE — With oars at the ready and a new design, the University of Kansas School of Engineering concrete canoe team will hit the waters of Lone Star Lake near Lawrence this week looking to repeat as American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) Mid-Content Regional Conference Champions.

KU plays host this year to the three-day conference for the first time since 2007. More than 400 participants from 15 universities are expected on campus for a variety of competitions, presentations and social events today through Saturday, April 23-25.

KU’s concrete canoe team took first place in the 2014 Mid-Continent Regional competition and advanced to nationals, where members earned the Spirit of the Competition Award. Concrete canoe team co-captain Billy Hirchert, a senior in civil engineering, said last year’s success, plus performing in front of a home crowd this year, have raised the expectations for the team this spring.

“While there may not be a home field — or lake, in this case — advantage we can gain by virtue of knowing the course layout, there is some added pressure to perform when all your friends and professors can come watch,” Hirchert said. “You always want to go out and be competitive when representing your school, but when it is at home, it’s even more on your mind.”

In hopes of improving their boat’s speed and handling, the team has revamped its canoe, constructing a lighter and more streamlined hull. This required the team to step outside the normal boundaries of design.

“Trying to build a concrete boat that is less dense than water and half-inch thick out of materials not meant to be used in this application always makes it a bit tense,” Hirchert said. “Couple that with a completely new design, and you have a lot of ways the canoe could actually just crack in half, leaving us swimming back to shore instead of lifting a trophy.”

The concrete canoe competition, as well as concrete bowling and the geowall contest, will take place from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, April 25, at Lone Star Lake, 10 miles southwest of Lawrence. There’s also a steel bridge competition planned Friday at the Lied Center. See the full ASCE Mid-Continent Regional Conference schedule.

In addition to KU, other schools competing are Benedictine College, Kansas State University, Missouri State University, Oklahoma State University, Oklahoma State University-Institute of Technology, the University of Oklahoma, Southern Illinois University-Carbondale, Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville, St. Louis University, University of Arkansas, University of Missouri, University of Missouri-Kansas City, University of Missouri Science and Technology, University of Nebraska and University of Nebraska-Omaha.       


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